Education @ Roundabout

Celebrating 20 Years of Education: Leese Walker

Posted on: July 13th, 2017 by Leese Walker


This year, Education at Roundabout celebrates its 20th Anniversary. Since 1996, Education at Roundabout has served as a national leader in arts education, using theatrical disciplines to create responsive programming that serves students, educators, early career professionals, and audiences. To celebrate this milestone, we asked members of the Education at Roundabout community to reflect on how Roundabout’s programs have impacted their lives.

Roundabout Teaching Artist Leese Walker was one of the company’s first teaching artists. Below, Leese reflects on how Education at Roundabout and her career have grown over the past twenty years.

When I landed in the field, it was still the wild west. The term “teaching-artist” was not widely known, we didn’t yet have affinity groups or Master’s programs devoted to the form, you just did it. My first gig in NYC after college was an internship at the Irondale Ensemble. This was ’92. I bought stamps, did bank runs and taught. Taught? I was assigned as a “shadow” to a more experienced teaching-artist and our job was to perform theater games at a violent school. There was no training. I was struck by how often the police were there hauling someone out. One day when we arrived, there was an eery feeling in the hallways. Few students were there and soon, we realized, no teachers.  When we got to our room, we learned that there had just been a riot. We launched into Zip, Zap Zop and off we went.

I spent 2 years working for Irondale and in that time, filled a mental rolodex full of theater games. Although we didn’t fill out assessment reports or align with standards, I logged how each game affected the participants – what skills it honed – what other games it worked well with. I spent the next three years freelancing as an actor. I realized early on, that I liked teaching a lot more than waiting tables. By 1997, I was on the roster at: Circle Rep, ENACT, Manhattan Class Company, National Shakespeare Company, Judith Shakespeare Company, TDF and Theater for a New Audience (TFANA). In ’97, two big things happened. I founded my own company, the Strike Anywhere Performance Ensemble and the Education Director of TFANA, Margie Salvante, brought several of us over from TFANA to launch a new education program at Roundabout. Margie was intelligent and driven. She was interested in quality pedagogy. The early years at Roundabout involved all kinds of experiments. We were trying to figure out how to align with teacher practice. We adopted the teachers’ lexicon, set up baseline measures and benchmarks and tested ways to track growth.  It was exciting.

Leese with educators at Roundabout’s Theatrical Teaching Institute.

Over the years, Education at Roundabout went through different leadership but what stayed consistent was the attention to quality programming and a sense of community amongst the roster. There were many tears shed during the years when we practiced “boot camp” – having adult actors perform “challenging student behavior” while novice teaching-artists battled it out in the shark tank. Those were not our prettiest days but we learned a lot. I think what has always been exceptional about Roundabout, is the camaraderie among the TAs and the attention to craft. We developed the methodology over time, developed protocol as a group. That shared leadership engenders a stake in our collective success. When I look at the vast reach of the department now, how many students we touch, the diversity of programming, it is staggering. To realize that 20 years have passed is surreal. Having had a hand in shaping what I believe to be some of the best teaching-artist practice in the city makes me tip my hat to those early bronco days and thank god for the long ride. Yeeeee-ha! Onwards!

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Celebrating 20 years of Education: Rashell Marcelino

Posted on: July 6th, 2017 by Rashell Marcelino


This year, Education at Roundabout celebrates its 20th Anniversary. Since 1996, Education at Roundabout has served as a national leader in arts education, using theatrical disciplines to create responsive programming that serves students, educators, early career professionals, and audiences. To celebrate this milestone, we asked members of the Education at Roundabout community to reflect on how Roundabout’s programs have impacted their lives.

Below, Rashell Marcelino, a Fellow in Roundabout’s Theatrical Workforce Development Program, shares the story of her journey into technical theatre.

My name is Rashell Marcelino and I am a fellow in Roundabout’s Theatrical Workforce Development Program. I graduated from Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School in June 2016, where I discovered my true interest for the arts. Even though I walked by the Steinberg Center for Theatre every day, I first heard about Roundabout in my Business Arts class, Smash Arts Production, taught by Ms. DeGregorio.

The 2016 TWDP cohort.

The activities led by Roundabout Teaching Artists helped us not only to develop theater skills, but also life skills. One of the coolest things about working with the Teaching Artists were the things I got to do outside of the classroom. I was assigned to be the lead costume designer on our production that year, and I was responsible for shopping for the materials for the designs. I worked with TA Anya Klepikov and she introduced me to some stores around the city that sell materials. I even got to go to Materials for the Arts with my art teacher. It’s so cool that I got to go to these places with the help of my educators.

Rashell participating in a Sound Design workshop with a Roundabout Teaching Artist.

In my senior year I was no longer involved in Smash Arts Production, but I always looked for ways to stay involved with theater and Roundabout. I became a Roundabout Student Ambassador at JKO and worked on the 2016 Student Theatre Arts Festival (STAF). It was at STAF that I learned about the Theatrical Workforce Development Program. At the time I had applied to a few community colleges, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study or how I would pay for it. What attracted me to TWDP was the job training for backstage careers. I knew that I already had an interest in being a part of a production team. And not only was TWDP a free program, but it paid me to learn about the things that I’m already interested in. Talk about a win-win! So I interviewed, waited for a response, and finally received an offer to join the program. I decided I wouldn’t go to college for the time being, and accepted a spot in TWDP.

At the start of the program I remember feeling like a sponge. I was introduced to different fields in entertainment, learned new vocabulary, and met industry professionals who told us how they got started. With the help of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) union members, we learned about the importance and benefits of being in a union. They also spoke about safety practices, the importance of asking questions, and remembering the people you’ve worked with. But the most common advice we received was “be willing to learn.” At first it all felt so new, but now after the first year of training I understand more about how things work, not only in one specific discipline but in areas across technical theatre.

Rashell performing in JKO High School’s production of THE WORTH OF WATER

Now I'm spending my summer interning at Dixon Place. I’m excited to learn new things and become even more familiar with technical theatre. I’d like to stay involved with the program, and help it to grow even better for the future fellows. TWDP is a unique program that isn’t like anything you would find in college. TWDP focuses on the technical elements and helps you to network with people who are working in the industry, which is key in getting jobs. I believe there should be more alternative programs like TWDP that help people to learn about a specific industry.

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Interview with Teaching Artist Henry Decker

Posted on: May 16th, 2017 by Sarah Kutnowsky


Teaching Artist Henry Decker has worked with Roundabout for the past two years. During the school year, Henry leads classroom and after-school residencies at Roundabout Partner Schools, develops curriculum for Roundabout’s Theatrical Workforce Development Program (TWDP), and facilitates workshops on carpentry skills for the TWDP fellows. Over the summer, Henry serves as a carpentry mentor for the Student Production Workshop’s summer ensemble.

Education Coordinator Sarah Kutnowsky spoke with Henry about his path to teaching artistry and his work with Roundabout.

Henry working with fellow Teaching Artists and educators at Roundabout’s Theatrical Teaching Institute

Sarah Kutnowsky: Tell me a bit about yourself and your artistry.
Henry Decker: I am a retired firefighter, having served for twenty years with the FDNY. Prior to that, I was employed by the Rouse Company - a shopping mall management firm. With Rouse, I assisted the marketing director and also was responsible for mall displays such as Santaland and the Easter Bunny Village. I did this at several shopping centers in the tri-state area. This was my entry into set construction. I'm also a magician, performing at local restaurants and private parties.

SK: How did you come to be a teaching artist? Could you share your first arts education experience?
HD: I first became interested in the role of teaching artist after meeting Roundabout Teaching Artists Carrie Heitman and Chad Yarborough at Curtis High School on Staten Island. As a parent, I helped out each year with the sets at Curtis and at IS61 before that. Through helping out as a volunteer, I taught many students over the last ten years the art of stagecraft.

SK: What is your favorite part about working as a teaching artist?
HD: I really enjoy meeting teachers and students throughout the City and watching them learn through theatre.

SK: Could you share a memorable lesson or moment from your time as a teaching artist at Roundabout?
HD: Last year, I worked with a class of students who didn’t really seem too interested in the work. But at one visit, I started the lesson with a crazy inciting incident, and was shocked that the students actually stood up and participated! Also, working with the Theatrical Workforce Development Program has been extremely rewarding. I’ve really enjoyed teaching the fellows carpentry, load-in, and strike skills through hands-on workshops and site visits.

SK: Do you have any exciting projects coming up?
HD: I look forward to continuing my work with TWDP. I'm really excited for the second cohort of TWDP fellows to begin!

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Education @ Roundabout, Teaching Artist Tuesday

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